Editorial – The use of God’s name

Glenn Rutherford

Glenn Rutherford

Oh, my God. Jesus Christ. Holy Mother of Mary.

Seventeen times in a recent animated situation comedy currently popular on television, those words or something awfully close to them were uttered. And the dialogue in which they were included had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with religion, faith, God, Jesus or Mary.

The use of God’s name — and others we hold holy — has become such a part of the national lexicon that it rarely draws attention or comment.

Most of us are guilty of using God’s name in vain, one way or the other. Some of us far more guilty than others. And the truth is, we really don’t want God to damn someone. We really don’t mean to be disrespectful of our faith, our God, or the Son of God whose birth we’re supposed to be celebrating this time of year.

“Supposed to be” is an intentional phrase. Not to be a crusader here, but it seems a bit odd when a television network devotes the better part of a month airing “Christmas” movies and not a one of them deals in any way with the birth of Christ.

We all love Christmas and Christmas movies. Who doesn’t chuckle every time the father in “A Christmas Story” reads the listing on a crate and says “Fra-geeee-lay. Must be Italian.”

And we all appreciate the story of the Grinch. “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” have spiritual messages and are beloved. So it can be done.

But about our personal language; about our uttering the name of Jesus as almost an epithet when some football play goes against our team or a basketball bounces the wrong direction. That has become a figure of speech.

This Christmas season, can’t we all make an effort to change the way we react to such things?

Pope Francis told bishops back in 2014 that they shouldn’t waste time on the petty shortcomings that most of the people they encounter will have.

A Catholic News Service story said the bishops were told to “strike a balance between being audacious sentinels, ready around the clock to wake up a slumbering world, and gentle, forgiving fathers who unconditionally love the sinning people God has given you.’ ”

“Do not waste your energy in opposition and arguments, but in building and loving,” he said.

So this minor bit of caution about the way we use the name of our God, our Holy Father and Holy Mother isn’t meant to be part of some chastisement or the alleged “war on Christmas.”

It’s far simpler than that.

It is only meant to be a suggestion that we ought to remember just who it is we’re talking about when we utter those names. We should save those utterances for when we really mean to open a conversation with the God who loves us all, even when we misuse his name.

Oh, my God, it would be really something if you could help us remember this simple admonition.

Jesus Christ, help us to recall whose birthday we’re celebrating in the midst of all the decorating, cookie baking and gift-giving. My God, please watch over all of us in what can only be called perilous times.

Jesus Christ, Holy Mary and all the saints — we need your help.

GLENN RUTHERFORD
Editor Emeritus

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